Yale Law School and the School of Management are now offering a three-year joint degree in business and law.
The new accelerated Integrated Juris Doctor-Master of Business Administration program launched this academic year after several years of planning. While the program eliminates several elective requirements for each degree, students and professors said they are confident that any loss of educational breadth will be minimal and post-graduation employment opportunities will be unaffected. Only three students are currently pursuing the three-year joint degree — which accepts students applying before they enter graduate school as well law students applying in their first year — and all three were originally enrolled solely in the Law School.
“This is the future of legal education for people who want to go into transaction law, and areas like most business-related law and social entrepreneurship,” said Roberta Romano LAW ’80, professor and director of the Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law. “There are certain skills you need in these fields that law schools cannot effectively provide, unless they are really big.”
Students in the three-year program will spend their first and third years at the Law School and their second year at SOM, taking a mandatory law elective in the spring semester. During the third year, students may also take some business electives.
Each school will grant students in the program elective credit for related academic courses they take at the other school.
“In an ideal world you would be able to take a lot more courses,” Romano said. “But overall I think the trade-off is minor.”
The new program joins the existing four-year joint degree, which has been offered at by the Law School and SOM for decades, said Barry Nalebuff, a professor at SOM who is the three-year JD-MBA’s point person at the business school.
Of the handful of universities that offer such a three-year program — including Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania — Yale’s program is unique in that students do not need to take summer classes to fulfill course requirements because both SOM and the Law School both set fewer course requirements than the other universities do.
The structure of the program also allows Yalies to graduate alongside their classes at both schools, unlike a four-year program, Nalebuff said. He added that this continuity was important to the committee when they were considering how to structure the program.
This year, five students applied to the program, Romano said. But because both schools have incorporated more information about the program in their promotional materials, including brochures, DelMonico said he hopes more students will apply next year. He said he anticipates more interest from SOM applicants in the future because in his experience, SOM students are particularly interested in combining academic fields.
Though primarily law students feed into the program, DelMonico said, in the future he hopes enrollment comes from both schools.
“The demand for joint degrees has always been strong,” DelMonico said. “Being able to customize their studies is always very attractive to our students.”
But although students in the three-year JD-MBA program will be able to study both law and business at a high level, Romano said, they will have to forgo the broader education they owuld get from a single degree.
Doug Rand LAW ’10 SOM ’10, a third-year law student, who obtained special permission to join the program having completed his requirements at the Law School, said he has enjoyed the move to the SOM campus.
“It’s hilarious,” Rand said. “At the Law School there is no enforced introspection — a lot of learning about oneself happens, but it is not formalized. At SOM there’s everything but going out in the woods and beating drums.”
Both Rand and Kristen Ghattas SOM ’10 said the curriculum at SOM, which includes more assignments than Law School’s, required a period of adjustment, but said they are both satisfied with their decision to pursue the three-year JD-MBA.
Romano said while a graduate of the three-year program might have less substantive knowledge about the law, she said that the program provides students with analytical skills that would be difficult to learn outside of the classroom.
“If you really want to go into business, it may be a disadvantage, because you can’t take every course,” Romano said, adding that students who were uncertain about the direction they wanted to pursue should consider the four-year JD-MBA instead, due to the level of focus needed for the three-year program.
But Don Rebstock, the associate dean of enrollment, career strategy and marketing at Northwestern Law School, said graduates of their three-year program have been extremely successful in the employment process. Indeed, the employment rate has been 100 percent since the school moved to a three-year system, with roughly half of graduates pursuing positions each in law and business immediately after graduation.
“That makes sense because the law and business are so interrelated these days and having both degrees gives JD-MBA students a significant leg up in their legal and business careers as well as in the recruitment process leading up to them,” Rebstock said.
The Law School allows its students to pursue a master’s degree or a doctorate at the same time as a law degree, while SOM offers joint degrees with nine other schools at Yale.